Day 2,696 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
Is it life - or our way of life?
My father just turned seventy-three this week. A few days later his wife likewise made another trip around the sun. My mother will be turning seventy-three in April. I find it hard to keep up with people’s birthdays but I try to remember some of them. I congratulated my father’s wife and, in her reply, she wrote: “where did the past year go?” – where indeed.
Last weeks entry: Kung Hei Fat Choi! – more Hong Kong
On a monthly basis I write for a Swedish magazine called Tidningen Syre. A while ago in one of the articles I pointed out that I was hardly a traveller given that I had been stuck in Hong Kong for more than a year. Not much travelling going on for me these days. Yet, while I am among the world’s three-hundred most travelled people I find that travelling is sort of a by-product of something else. Once Upon A Saga is hardly a travel project. The overall goal can however not be reached without a vast amount of travelling. To me the Saga is far more about shinning some much-needed light on the world to combat the negativities which are often and again dominant in the news cycles. People are just people and globally we have so much more in common than what most realise. The world we share is both beautiful and fascinating. I’m not arguing that it is without its problems and we certainly have a lot of work ahead of us. I’m simply pointing out that it is far better than what most people seem to be willing to accept. In fact, a great deal of things are going our way: people living in extreme poverty has plummeted over the past decades, basic education is up, literacy is up, more people than ever are living in democracies, people vaccinated (against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) are at an all-time high, child mortality is down and gender equality up. These are all important building blocks and it is going well for us!! Why are people largely unaware? Well, for starters most people don’t even realize how bad things used to be. Personally, I believe that the one-sidedness of most media is influencing us negatively. If you are told every day that you are ugly and incompetent then you will eventually loose self-confidence. If you are told the opposite then you may become over-confident. There must be balance.
We had a successful family hike with the Danish Seamen's Church. Lots of lovely people.
Christian Von Vogel with his son Victor.
I largely also see the Saga as a “strength project”. The insane goal of reaching every country in the world in an unbroken journey completely without flying is…well: crazy! However, the amount of willpower, strength, determination, persistence and endurance it takes to reach such madness can be transferred to any goal in life. Top athletes become the best because they train their skillset everyday for years without end. I’m sure most of them wanted to quit at some point and the ones that did never made it. To win first prize you need more than persistence. You also need to have skills, support and some luck as well. Most people don’t reach for the stars for one reason or the other. But most people do attempt to achieve something: get an education, find a job, loose weight, raise funds, help more people, learn a new language, become rich, learn to play an instrument etc. If you want to learn how to play the guitar then you obviously can’t quit on the first day. As such the Saga eventually became a source of inspiration and motivation over time. And it continues until this day.
I had a nice evening with my friend Paul and his wonderful family. Paul is the head of Walk in Hong Kong which recently created some interesting ideas. Why not check it out?
Paul and Carmen have some lovely children. And my beard was a huge hit! :)
I often challenge myself with all sorts of craziness while stuck here in Hong Kong. Some friends and I have theorized that it is a coping mechanism which I use to deal with the stress and pressure of the situation. I suspect that it is true. A very good friend of mine rolled his eyes at me and told me that he can’t keep up with all my crazy side projects. I don’t blame him as there have been a lot. Fortunately, most of my crazy challenges are highly physical and help me stay in shape. I firmly believe that a healthy body is key in keeping a healthy mind. And I’ll tell you one thing right now: it is so easy to quit!! It is hard to succeed! And that is why most people never learn how to play the guitar, never learn another language and never lose weight. I could quit today. I could leave everything behind, buy a ticket, head to the airport and be back home in Denmark tomorrow. Yeah – quitting is easy which is why most people do it. However, after seven years of this, with nearly four-hundred days of being stuck in Hong Kong, I can still say that we never quit this thing. And it’s by no means all bad. I have thousands of grand memories to look back on and hundreds of new friends because of the Saga. It has just really been time to go home for many years now. You can probably only experience so much before you need to digest and recharge. Can I recharge here in Hong Kong? Not really – there are still nine countries out there and I’m not getting any younger. Time is not on my side if I am to start a family. This was never supposed to take this long.
I had the pleasure of meeting up with Angela who created 'Dear Future Grand Children' along with her friends. To be continued.
Yesterday I woke up, had a cup of tea and thought to myself: “what is really under attack during the pandemic? “Is it life - or our way of life?” I suppose we are showing our strength as humans when we protect those who are most vulnerable. In fact, this is the way of our existence: we take care of our children for years until they become capable. It is built into us to take care of each other. We were all vulnerable in the beginning of our lives. It may be well worth while to remember that.
The geothermal conference in Denmark was a huge success. No doubt that geothermal energy is a part of the future. It would be very nice if the government would invest more in it. I was invited to join by Geoop! :)
My days have again been very busy lately. Not much comes from nothing. The highly successful Nas Daily video, which has now been watched more than 18 million times on facebook, began with an email. Then after some correspondence I had to dig up some specific video and photo for the Nas Daily crew. Filming took a couple of days. Finally, it was released. But by then I was already working on many other things. This project has been fortunate to receive as much attention as it does. There are interviews on a weekly basis, several offers to collaborate and the Saga’s social media now host more than 100,000 accounts. I spend time generating content, researching, meeting people, chasing documents, training for the next challenge and working for the Danish Seamen’s Church. I still have a long-distance relationship to manage with my lovely fiancée and I also need to stay on top of the global situation. Sri Lanka has now opened up and I wouldn’t mind making Sri Lanka our next base. You see, the logistics of the final nine is not only about getting to a new country – it largely depends on which one. Can you imagine what it would be like to reach Palau, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Samoa or Tonga without being able to continue from there? If we are to get stuck again then it is preferable that it would be a country of size and with rich opportunity. From the remaining nine that leaves us with Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia. Meanwhile ships continue to struggle with crew changes and this planet is still far from returning to normality. What is the timeline we are dealing with? Who can say…
I briefly made my way back to Lamma Island to see a few a friends, collect a couple of books and have a couple of beers with Nick the local celebrity.
Hong Kong has begun to open up again. Restaurants are now open until 10pm, we can be seated four at a table, gyms have opened up etc. Nice! Let's hope that it holds up.
The Red Cross? Well somehow, I’m still a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross although I haven’t heard from my primary contact for over a year now. They must be busy with more important stuff. I continue to create content on a weekly basis which elevates the visibility of the humanitarian movement. We’ve got photos and stories from visiting the movement in 189 countries so there’s something to go on. The kindness, attentiveness and interest of the Danish Red Cross HQ, towards our body of work within the Saga, is inversely proportional to what I have experienced from so many volunteers, delegates and staffers around the world. Alas, that body of work only represents reaching out to the movement in 189 countries, writing and delivering more than a hundred unique Red Cross Red Crescent stories, interacting with volunteers and staff, raising global attention, raising funds and of course seven years of advocating for becoming a volunteer, donating money, donating blood or supporting in any way possible. One can absolutely comprehend why the Danish Red Cross would make no use of that ;) Yeah – I’ve always been honest about my frustrations. And its well worth while to keep in mind that the Danish Red Cross actually carries out a huge amount of invaluable humanitarian work across more than forty countries. And they do that while representing roughly 0.5% of the countries which have a Red Cross or a Red Crescent National Society.
Printing out newspapers in all sorts of languages is a now a part of my job.
The job at the Danish Seamen’s Church is also keeping me busy. It’s really interesting in a surprising way. I do enjoy visiting the ships and being inside the port. But I am quite familiar with that element already. The more interesting part of the job comes when a ship requests guitar strings, a specific suitcase, 5 kgs of roasted coffee beans or something else which I have never had the need for myself. I then get to do some research and go out and explore a new corner of Hong Kong which is just beautiful. Over the past year I have covered a lot of ground in Hong Kong and while I’m well aware that I haven’t seen it all – I do feel like I might have seen more than most. Where do you get guitar strings? What’s the best place to buy a suitcase? When you can’t find roasted coffee beans at the supermarket, then where do you go? Those are just a few examples and I rather enjoy the “alternative treasure hunt” within providing the seafarers with what they want. Afterall, they have been very kind to me over the years and anything I can do to repay the favour is well worth my time.
Salomon all the way baby!! And I'm getting ready for the next challenge. Feels good! :)
Right, on a final note my next mad challenge is coming up in a few weeks. There’s a social media celebrity named David Goggins. He is a retired United States Navy SEAL, an ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete, motivational speaker, and author. He appears to be an explosion of energy and “can do attitude”. David isn’t much older than me and he has become a cliche of himself by always shouting stuff like: “they can’t hurt me!”, “you don’t know me!”, “who’s gonna carry the boats – and the logs!” and much, much more. He is so over the top that it is funny. But also very motivational. He came from a place of great obesity and made himself who he is today. The Goggins Challenge is to run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours straight: 4x4x48. 4 miles add up to 6.4 km. It takes me about 35 minutes to cover that distance and as I get tired it will take longer. So, to get three hours of unbroken sleep would be luxury for those two days. The overall distance adds up to 48 miles or 77.25 kilometres. It should be interesting! As you may imagine I’ve had a hard time finding anyone who will join me. But my fiancée is going to give it a go!! I love that woman!! I recently posted a video online in which I stated I would be taking the challenge upon myself and I tagged David Goggins account in which he has 3.7 million followers!! Naturally I never expected a reply…but I got one: “stay hard” he wrote.
If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - still fighting.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga
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